Wendy’s plan was to use the store’s huge food court as a classroom where I could see and sample dozens of Thai dishes and, best of all, actually watch them being made. But before we could get to the sweets whose names and spellings I’m sure I’ve mangled egregiously, take a look at these
They’re from Macaron, where the pastry chef, Eric Perez, had worked at the French Embassy.
They were lovely and the quality looked really high, but macarons weren’t our mission of the moment: we were after sweets like these Khanom Krok Swoei
I was fascinated by the way these were constructed. First a crepe-like batter made from rice flour is poured into the hot pan. (It’s a European pan whose name escapes me, but it’s made of cast iron and its molds are half-spheres.)
As soon as the batter is in, the pan is shaken assertively, so that a thin layer of crepe covers its entire surface, and then a custard batter of coconut milk and sugar is poured in. After, there’s another thin, thin topping of crepe batter, a scattering of scallions, corn or bits of pumpkin, and the last stage of the cooking, which is done covered.
That the last layer of crepe batter sets to a soft crust while the bottom layer crisps slightly is marvelous. The final step is to cut around the treats with a scissors and sandwich them. These are addictively delicious and I’ll be trying to make them when I get home — I’ve already got the pan.
Actually, while many of the things we tasted could be called sweets without compromising the word, the Khanom Buang, like the Khanom Kork Swoei, were that interesting mix that I saw often in Thai foods — something sweet wtih a savory accent. The base of the Khanom Buang is a small thin crepe — maybe made from rice flour although it tasted like buckwheat (does someone know what it is? Wendy told me, but …). When it’s just about done, it gets a dollop of cooked-sugar meringue and a smidgen of either egg yolk cooked in sugar syrup (that’s what’s in the picture) or a sweet-salty mixture that includes dried shrimp. Once I got used to the juxtaposition of super-sweet meringue with a savory topping, I did what everyone else around me did — ate them compulsively.
The most startling looking sweet of the day was Kalamae Raman. a sweet caramelish candy made of sticky rice, coconut milk and palm sugar that’s wrapped in beetlenut bark, a perfect container (I also saw it wrapped in banana leaf), and then sliced into pieces with a paper cutter. They were terrific: a little stretchy and taffyish, so you could press them up against the roof your mouth and let them melt; a little mysterious because of the layers of flavors you just couldn’t place; and a lot of fun — who doesn’t love playing with your food? Thank you, Wendy.